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What Is North Carolina Known For?

North Carolina may often get confused with its southern neighbor, but this state can stand on its own when it comes to attractions and noteworthy facts. Whether you’re planning to visit NC soon or are simply driving through it on your next road trip, here’s what you should know about the Old North State.

North Carolina is known for its famous cities, nature, sports, and historical monuments. The Tar Heel State is also known for being the birthplace of some of the most popular food brands in the country, including Pepsi and Krispy Kreme. 

If you’ve ever wondered what North Carolina is known for, keep reading. You’ll be ready to visit by the time you’re done!

Charlotte, NC

Though not the state’s capital, Charlotte is one of the most well-known cities in North Carolina. 

As one of the biggest business and culture hubs in the South, Charlotte is home to many of the state’s biggest landmarks and attractions, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Charlotte is one of the driving forces of the state’s economy, with major banking corporations headquartered here, such as Bank of America. Yet, the city still maintains the southern charm that people have come to associate with the Carolinas. 

High Point, NC – Known As the Furniture Capital of the World

High Point might not be as well-known by outsiders, but it’s still a very important part of North Carolina. This city offers visitors the quintessential small-town feel, with picturesque streets that are sure to get you to take your phone out for pics.

Besides its lovely charm, what’s really put this city on the map is its furniture production. There are countless furniture crafters in High Point, and the High Point Market is world-famous for its gorgeous pieces.

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains are at the top of many travel bucket lists, and for good reason! These mountains are sure to have something for you, regardless of how intrepid you may be. You can relax in nature by the beautiful mountains, learn about the Cherokee people who once called the mountains home, and pick up some souvenirs you’ll cherish forever. 

Crowders Mountain

Whether you’re a hiker, a rock climber, or just want to get away from the city for some relaxation in nature, Crowders Mountain State Park is your place.

Though not as well-known outside the state, Crowders is slowly building up a name for itself as the go-to spot for some outdoor time without the crowds of some of the more popular park locations. 

Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains aren’t just a mountain range. It’s a whole region of the state made up of breathtaking forests and mountains and quaint towns.

You can plan an entire trip around just visiting this mountain chain, the little villages that have settled at its feet, and the numerous events that are hosted there every year.


Whitewater Rafting

While North Carolina certainly didn’t invent whitewater rafting, it’s definitely claimed this adventurous outdoor activity as its own.

With all the state and national parks it has to offer, there are dozens of rivers you can book a whitewater rafting adventure on if you’re looking for some excitement. All you have to do is pick one and make sure to strap yourself in! 

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain has something for visitors of all ages. From their bridge club and restaurants to the nature park, there’s plenty to do here. In order to conserve the wildlife of the park, you have to reserve a ticket in advance to visit. However, it’s more than worth the little bit of extra planning. 

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock and its village are tucked away in nature, making it the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts to visit. With less than 200 people living there, you’ll certainly catch a break from big city life. With the peace and quiet of this picturesque scene, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the views of the Chimney Rock lookout point. 

The Chimney Rock point is the main attraction of Chimney Rock Park. In fact, this monolith gives the park its name. Climb up this impressive peak and enjoy the vista with the knowledge you’re standing on a rock that is hundreds of millions of years old.


Outer Banks

The Outer Banks might be one of the more famous regions in North Carolina because of its interesting location. They’re a group of small islands right off the North Carolina coast. It takes a little extra planning to visit since you can’t just drive, but the unique charm this area has to offer is well worth it. 

When you visit the Outer Banks, you’ll also hear one of the rarest accents in the US. The Outer Banks accent developed right on the island and is slowly disappearing as the legacy population of the Outer Banks dwindles. 

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

A beach vacation at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is unlike any other trip to the sea. As a protected area, you’ll be able to enjoy the sand, sun, and water along with the local wildlife. You can even go camping and off-roading in the shore’s designated areas.

Tar Heel State

Every state is known for something. North Carolina is known as the “Tar Heel State,” which dates back to the state’s history in producing military supplies.

Workers would walk barefoot through tar pits to keep their shoes protected from getting lost and ruined. From there, the state’s legacy was born. 

Higher Education

North Carolina isn’t just known for its nature and cities. The state also boasts numerous universities and museums that attract visitors from all over the world, such as Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.

In fact, there is a whole region of North Carolina called the Research Triangle. This area encompasses part of the metropolitan areas of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, and is notable for its high number of research universities. All three universities mentioned above are located in the Research Triangle!

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences stands out as one of the best natural science museums in the South. A must-visit for people of all ages, this museum makes learning fun and has an ever-changing rotation of exhibits so you can visit multiple times without getting bored. 

First in Flight

Everyone knows about the Wright brothers and their first flight, but did you know these two men from Ohio actually took their first flight in North Carolina? The state is extremely proud to be part of this monumental moment in history that changed the world forever.


Wright Brothers National Memorial

As the location of the first time man who took flight in an airplane, North Carolina is also home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Located in the Outer Banks, this memorial is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone who wants to learn a little more about the first airplanes ever built.

Krispy Kreme Donuts

Did you know that Krispy Kreme donuts were first made in North Carolina? With the first donut made in 1933 and the first store arriving in 1937, this North Carolina business quickly became a staple across the nation and even across the globe. 


One of the biggest brands to originate in North Carolina is Pepsi, which was first sold in the state in 1898. This company never forgot its roots, as the original Pepsi store in North Carolina is still open today to both clients and tourists who come from all over the world to visit the first store of one of the most popular beverages in the world.

Alcohol production (Distillery) 

Though the USA has had a complicated history with alcohol, the period of prohibition never stopped its production. If you’re interested in liquor production and its history, you can visit one of the many distilleries in North Carolina and all over the South. 

Have a taste of some rum, whiskey, and even some moonshine to get the true distillery experience. You can plan a whole trip just around visiting different alcohol distilleries. There are dozens to choose from!


North Caroline loves its sports. You won’t find any locals rooting for any other teams but their own, which has helped the local teams become famous nationwide. Here are some of the most famous North Carolina sports teams.

Carolina Panthers

The North Carolina Panthers are the state’s NFL team, and they get proudly championed by residents all across the state. The team’s mascot, Sir Purr, is proudly featured on merchandise that you can find virtually everywhere. You didn’t go on a trip to North Carolina if you didn’t see at least a few Carolina Panthers bumper stickers, flags, and t-shirts while out and about! 

Charlotte Hornets

Basketball season doesn’t go unnoticed in North Carolina either, with the state supporting its team, the Charlotte Hornets, in the NBA. While not quite as popular as the Panthers, you’ll still find plenty of Hornets memorabilia around the state, especially in the team’s home city. 

College Basketball

With 18 teams that call North Carolina home, it’s no wonder the state has become famous in the collegiate basketball world. The University of North Carolina basketball team is the most famous of them all and can be seen on ESPN during college basketball season. 

NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR is famous all around the US and the world, but North Carolina is the only place you can find the official NASCAR hall of fame. It may have only opened in Charlotte in 2010, but it’s quickly become one of the state’s biggest and most well-known modern landmarks. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joe Gibbs, and more are forever immortalized within the walls of this famous hall. 

Civil War 

The Civil War ravaged the entire country, and North Carolina is no different. With its countless Civil War museums and memorials, you can learn a lot about the war in some of the historic places where it was fought. What better way to learn about history than by visiting the very locations mentioned in your history books?

Biltmore Estate and Garden

It’s not true that everything is bigger in Texas. North Carolina gets the honor of claiming America’s largest home with the Biltmore Estate. Now a historical site that’s open for visitors, this estate was initially a home for George Vanderbilt that was constructed in the late 1800s on an impressive 8,000 acres of land. 

Food North Carolina Is Known For

North Carolina has brought multiple types of food into the world. It’s not a surprise considering it’s the home of multiple popular nationwide chains and companies! Here are some of the most famous foods of the Old North State. 


If you don’t like barbecue, you’ll be in the minority in the South. Every state has its own signature style when it comes to barbecue, but North Carolina’s gives others a run for their money. 

North Carolina barbecue uses a mix of dry rubs and vinegar-based sauce to give food a smoky kick that will leave you craving more. There’s even a statewide barbecue trail you can go on to try different recipes!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Made famous worldwide thanks to the movie sharing this dish’s name, fried green tomatoes can be found on most menus in North Carolina restaurants.

This fried delicacy is comfort food at its finest, and you won’t find it made better anywhere outside of North Carolina! 

Krispy Kreme Cheerwine Doughnut

Two North Carolina powerhouses, Krispy Kreme and Cheerwine, joined forces to create the Cheerwine doughnut. While it was only available for a limited time, this doughnut made waves when it was released. In fact, Cheerwine has even released an official recipe to recreate this sweet treat at home if you miss or missed out on the official collaboration.  


Cookout might not be famous everywhere else in the US since it’s only found in North Carolina, but it’s practically an institution in its home state. Cookout is a fast food restaurant that mixes southern charm, comfort food, and ridiculously affordable prices. Even if it’s a little out of your way to get there, it’s well worth the trip to try it for yourself! 

Shrimp N’ Grits

Shrimp n’ grits are some of the most traditional foods you can get in the Carolinas. While not exclusive to North Carolina, it’s still extremely popular in the state. This dish is typically served at breakfast since grits are a treasured breakfast food in the South. 


Bojangles is the premier place to get fried chicken in North Carolina. It’s a popular fast food restaurant with many locations, so you’ll never be too far from one. That means there’s no excuse not to try it! They even have a merch store and offer delivery, showing that this is one chain that likes to keep up with the times. 

Calabash Seafood

Calabash seafood initially started near the town of Calabash, the so-called seafood capital of the world. This seafood is popular in buffet and family-style eating, where you don’t stop until you’re stuffed. You can find this breaded and fried fish cuisine all over the state, but it’s particularly popular along the coast, where the catch is freshest.



Don’t be scared off by the name—Cheerwine is a non-alcoholic soft drink that’s produced and exclusively sold in North Carolina. Cheerwine has been produced in the state for over a hundred years. This cherry-flavored drink is popular among residents and visitors alike, with many out-of-state tourists bringing home a few bottles to savor later. 


So, whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or a die-hard foodie, there is something wonderful waiting for you in North Carolina! If you’re planning to visit the Old North State any time soon, make sure to bookmark this page to make sure you can cross all your favorite attractions off your bucket list.